By Allyson Kleinwachter, Nutrition Intern

For the first week of National Nutrition Month, we are celebrating fruit! Providing our bodies with some of the most essential nutrients, fruit contains potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C and folate. Found in bananas, prunes, peaches, apricots, cantaloupe and orange juice, potassium helps to maintain blood pressure and prevent muscle cramps. The skin and flesh of fruit contains fiber that helps reduce cholesterol levels that may lower the risk of heart disease and aid digestion, so eating the whole fruit is the best way to enjoy. Vitamin C is also found in fruit and is important for the growth and repair of body tissues and keeps our teeth and gums healthy.

Along with enjoying all the benefits of fruit, people that include fruit as a part of a overall healthy diet are more likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease as most fruits are low in fat, sodium and calories and do not contain any cholesterol.

When picking fruit, inspect to insure quality and freshness. Fresh or frozen fruit will provide more nutrients than canned versions, which lose some vitamins and minerals during processing. If canned fruit is the only option, choose a product that is packed in 100% fruit juice rather than heavy syrup to cut down on added sugar and calories. Also, select fruit that is in season when they are the least expensive and at their peak flavor.

When preparing fruit, rinse all produce to wash away dirt or pesticides that may have been used. According to Choose My Plate, it is recommended that adults should consume about 2 cups of fruit per day and children should consume about 1 to 1½ cups per day as part of an overall healthy diet.

Fruit is a delicious and easy addition to any diet. Please see our recipe for Fruit Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing and start incorporating more fruit in your diet today!